Free to marry, but unprotected from discrimination - it's past time to update the law to ensure fairness for all Pa. citizens

While marriage equality is now the law of the land, it is still currently legal in much of Pennsylvania to fire someone and deny them housing or business services solely on the basis of the person being gay or transgender.

The PA Fairness Act would update Pennsylvania’s current nondiscrimination law – originally written in 1955 – to ensure that all residents regardless of race, color, religion, ancestry, age, sex, national origin, disability and now – sexual orientation, gender identity and expression – can participate in and contribute to the state’s economy. Pennsylvania is currently the only state in the Northeast without such a law.

Without a statewide act to address such civil inequities, advocates are left to lobby each of Pennsylvania’s 2,562 municipalities to create laws locally protecting gay and transgender Pennsylvanians from being denied housing and local services due to discrimination.

Gov. Tom Wolf sent a strong message to the Republican leaders who have bottled up the legislation that would create the act in committee when he signed two executive orders -- one for commonwealth employees and the other relating to commonwealth grants and procurement processes – that each say no agency under the governor’s jurisdiction shall discriminate on the basis of sexual orientation, gender expression or gender identity.    

The governor’s action in 2016 was not only the right and fair thing to do -- it was a clear call to action to make it law statewide. 

All Pennsylvanians should have the opportunity to work hard, contribute to society and provide for themselves and their families. If Pennsylvania treats everyone fairly and equally under the law, Pennsylvania's economy will do better. When our economy does better, our residents do better.

House Democrats will continue to advocate public policy to make Pennsylvania more inclusive, fair, welcoming and economically competitive.